The Wall (2017)

  • Time: 81 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller | War
  • Director: Doug Liman
  • Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli


Two American Soldiers are trapped by a lethal sniper, with only an unsteady wall between them.


  • The year is 2007, President George W. Bush has declared victory in Iraq, and operations are winding down. Somewhere in the Iraqi desert lie two American snipers on stakeout. One is Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (John Cena), the other is his spotter, Sergeant Allen Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

    The two have been observing a pipeline construction site littered with dead bodies for any signs of life though, after 20 straight hours, the cocksure Matthews’ patience has long worn thin. Isaac is more cautious – at this point, they don’t know if the dead security guards were bushwhacked by local militants or victims of a notorious Iraqi sniper known as Juba, who has notched an impressive number of American kills under his belt. What if there’s someone hiding behind the stone wall in the distance?

    When Matthews forges ahead to collect the radios of the dead security guards, Isaac’s concerns prove well-founded. Matthews is hit, so is Isaac when he goes running to Matthews’ side. Scrambling for cover behind the stone wall, Isaac assesses the situation: Matthews is exposed and may either be unconscious or dead, he himself may be in the process of bleeding to death, his water bottle has been shot, so has his radio antenna, and Juba has managed to make contact with him via one of the guards’ radios. What ensues is less a tense cat and mouse game than an increasingly ponderous and ridiculous drama that ekes out a thrill or two.

    If The Wall feels familiar, it’s because it treads the same territory as Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro’s recent Mine, which starred Armie Hammer as an American sniper caught in a seemingly impossible situation. These essentially one-character, single-setting narratives are tricky affairs as maintaining the necessary tension and momentum for the film’s running time requires a resourcefulness from the director. Doug Liman, going back-to-basics after Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity, injects the film with visceral grit but for naught. Juba is only ever heard and not seen, which should contribute to the psychological horror of Isaac’s situation – is it possible that Juba is a mere figment of Isaac’s feverish mind? – but Dwain Worrell undercuts the menace with terrible dialogue.

    Ultimately, a film such as this fails or succeeds with its star and Johnson-Taylor, who proved himself a memorably compelling presence in Nocturnal Animals, simply does not have the wherewithal to hold the screen for the film’s 90-minute running time. Part of the issue derives from the monotony of his performance. Hammer managed to convey different depths of despair and frustration in Mine; Johnson-Taylor works at the same pitch in The Wall and both his performance and the film suffer as a result. One wishes that Liman would have utilised Cena a bit more as his gung-ho cockiness is sorely missed once Matthews is shunted to the background.

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  • “You Americans.
    You think you know it all.
    You think it’s simple.
    That I am your enemy.
    But we are not so different,you and I.”

    Ever seen “Mine“? A film about an American marine who accidentally steps on a land mine in the Afghan desert and an entire film he must remain motionless in the same place, until help arrives. “The Wall” shows an almost similar situation. Only this time it takes place in Iraq and the American soldier Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) sits behind the remains of a primitive wall. The only thing you’ll see in this film, is a psychological game between the professional sniper (who we’ll never get to see) and this soldier. Through a captured transmitter, he can communicate with Isaac and at the same time deceive other military personnel.

    It’s never really exciting. The only thing Isaac is working on, is finding a way out and ensuring that his partner Matthews (John Cena) won’t be slaughtered mercilessly by the most appropriately entrenched sniper. And this can only be prevented by talking sincere about himself. So the only thing we see a whole hour, is a distraught Isaac who has no water or transmitter at the beginning (And he has a terribly bleeding gunshot wound) talking to the Iraqi sniper, who apparently damn well knows how the American military apparatus works. A politically charged conversation unfolds between the two gentlemen. Discussing war, terrorism and Islam. A Shakespearian word game in which the Iraqi intellectual sounding gunner tries to justify his actions. A psychological game that drives Isaac to despair.

    Despite the fact that the film is limited in all possible ways (one character, one location, no special effects), the film remained extremely fascinating. Only I thought that the behavior of the two soldiers was implausible at a certain moment. I assume those were two trained, experienced soldiers who already had done a number of tours. But when you see the first one wandering towards the oilfield in a casual, worryfree way, it really looks amateurish. And then the way his partner starts running to help him. I guess it’s panic that is to blame and an explanation for his behavior. But besides this sigh-moment, I thought the acting wasn’t so bad. And some will experience the denouement as abrupt and disappointing. I, on the other hand, do like such uncommon endings. It doesn’t need to be a happy ending all the time!

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